Muslim preachers and members of the press as well as intellectuals are being targeted in a widening crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The London-based rights group ALQST, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, said Friday that a group of seven people, including writers and bloggers, had been arrested.
It identified the dual citizens as Salah al-Haidar, whose mother Aziza al-Yousef is among a group of prominent activists advocating women’s rights and is currently on trial, and Bader al-Ibrahim, a doctor and author of a book about Shia Muslim politics.
The rights group Prisoners of Conscience, a similar NGO, announced in a post on its official Twitter page that the number of people arrested stands at 10.
“What is disturbing about new Saudi arrests is that waves of arrests keep moving from most-known to successively lesser knowns,” Saudi-American activist Nora Abdulkarim wrote on Twitter.
“Another confusing aspect is timing, leaves one asking: ‘why now?’”
Saudi Arabia faces international criticism over the ongoing trial of eleven female activists advocating women’s rights, some of whom reportedly faced torture and sexual abuse during nearly a year in detention on trumped-up charges related to their activities and contacts with foreign journalists and diplomats.
The activists were detained in a sweeping crackdown weeks before Saudi Arabia overturned the world’s only ban on female motorists on June 24, 2018. The women had staunchly advocated for the right to drive.
Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.
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Saudi officials have also intensified crackdown in the country’s Shia-populated Eastern Province.
Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with security forces increasing security measures across the province.
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Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.
In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.